Sunday, January 15, 2012

St. Peter’s Basillica (Vatican City)

There is no way to capture this church – it is so amazing and awesome and no picture or words can call it justice. And then, even imagine what this church is compared to God! Here are a couple of highlights (there are so many great things about this church!) with pictures.

This picture is a picture of the cool guards at the Vatican. They are specially trained Swiss guards who are among the highest military trained forces in the world. Which makes sense to me – they protect the pope! Their uniforms were designed by Michelangelo, which is why they look a bit unique. But could you imagine wearing a work of art? Or at least a design by such an influential artist.

Here’s what the Vatican looks like from the outside. It looks just the same in person, and it was so amazing to actually be there, at this iconic place that I’d seen plenty of pictures of. And see that little gold ball on top? That’s actually a little chapel that can hold twenty or so people with chairs. Isn’t that crazy?! That’s how big this church is.

This is the first glimpse of the Vatican when you walk in! (I don’t think I mentioned this, but the Vatican is the same thing as St. Peter’s Basilica. I know, it confused me too.) There is no way to capture how huge it is… there is another row like this filled with giant statues and tombs of saints and popes (who are sometimes both) to the right and left of what you can see in this picture. And then off of those are smaller chapels and rooms for adoration and baptisms and weddings and all kinds of wonderful churchy events. Oh, and see those letters up ahead? They’re six feet tall. That’s right… it totally blew my mind, but it just shows how huge this church is. (It’s actually the biggest in the world).

Here’s another picture of the words, from higher up in the dome of St. Peter’s, which you can climb up to, and then around until you pop out pretty high up on the dome, but that’s another picture. These words are all around the main dome that you can see from the outside and all around the edges of the church near the ceiling. They are the bible verse in which Jesus gives Peter the keys to the kingdom, in Latin. Latin is actually the official language of Vatican City, which I thought was pretty cool. Also, fun fact, any time you see a shield with a pope’s hat at the top and keys at the bottom, it means that that pope commissioned that building or work of art or whatever it is. And if you see a saint with keys in his hand, you can bet that it’s most likely St. Peter.

This statue is in one of the alcoves on the right side of the church. It is called the ‘Pieta’ and is the only statue signed by Michelangelo. It is hard to capture in a picture, but this is truly an amazing statue – it really puts you into the emotions of Mary at the time of the crucifixion.

Here’s a picture of the dome from the inside. While I was in Vatican City, we got to tour the catacombs underneath the Vatican, which was fascinating. We were even feet away from the bones of St. Peter – a truly aweing and prayerful experience. If you were to drop a penny from the top of this dome, and hypothetically assuming it could go through objects, it would eventually land on the grave of St. Peter. He really is the rock our church is built upon.

This is the stained glass behind the secondary altar (behind the main altar) at St. Peter’s. It is surrounded by intricate gold statues and decorations, but unfortunately, I couldn’t get a picture of that. We celebrated mass while facing this, which was awesome. I really like the stained glass holy spirit – because that’s where the sun streams in, and it makes the holy spirit seem more ‘real’. It was a great experience to celebrate mass in the Vatican – even if it was in Italian.

This is a view from the top! You can take narrow, claustrophobic stairs very high up on the dome of St. Peter’s. It’s a great view when you finally get to the top. This is a view of the courtyard in front of the Vatican. The arcs have tons of statues of saints upon them, and the obelisk is said to be the last witness to the crucifixion of Peter, since it was supposedly there.

Another random fact that I thought was crazy about the Vatican is that every painting and decoration you see is a mosaic – not a fresco, as is popular in Italy. So this even, is a mosaic, which is crazy. If you look (pardon the dark photo), you can see Jesus’ feet through the water. I feel that would be hard even if it was a painting, but could you imagine creating this with tiny stones?

Going to St. Peter’s was an intensely amazing Catholic and tourist-y experience. It was amazing to see what people have created for our God, and weird to think how these majestic overwhelming creations don’t even come close to the majesty of our God.

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